Thursday, November 10, 2011

Income inequality hurts everyone

You've gotta watched this TED Talk by Richard Wilkinson, author of "The Spirit Level". It's not that he's a great speaker: he's just got an incredibly important point to make about how income inequality within a state causes health and social problems for everyone... and he has the data to prove it.

He doesn't shy away from the fact that Singapore is THE most unequal nation in terms of income in the world:

But unfortunately he doesn't have a lot of data to graph us. We definitely don't do well on the percentage of population incarcerated, though.

I've gotta buy this book.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

October 2011 texts!

Did I really read and watch so little in October? Singapore Writers Festival can't be that good for me after all...

Leonard Ng’s “This Mortal World”

Heidi Munan’s =“Tales from the Iban” and +“Tales from the Bidayuh”
+“My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me”, ed. Kate Bernheimer
Nuruddin Farah’s “Maps”
+Maaza Mengiste’s “Beneath the Lion’s Gaze”

+“The Short Stories and Radio Plays of S. Rajaratnam”, ed. Irene Ng

=“Laskar Pelangi”
+Hofesh Schechter Dance Company’s “Political Mother”
JECKOSdance’s “We Came From the East”
+Pangdemonium Productions’ “Dealer’s Choice”

=Grapheme's "Zine Mosh"
+Amanda Heng’s “Speak to Me, Walk With Me”

Friday, October 28, 2011

SPORE ART SALON 10 - The Halloween Edition!

Just a reminder to everyone that this month's SPORE Art Salon is coming - on Halloween itself! Guests include filmmaker Shaun Koh, artist Ila and sound artist Bani Haykal, and storyteller Kamini Ramachandran. Do also note that the price is now $20, and that it's now a free drink instead of free food.

In the spirit of 31st October falling on the very last monday of the month, we present to you, our first ever, themed salon - the SCARY EDITION! Don on your craziest costume creation, and come on out to The Loft to be spooked by a very special SCARY LINE UP of performing and visual artists who will be sharing the stage!!! It will be a night of halloween-inspired art making, nothing like another, so make sure you don't miss this spine chilling, mind blowing experience!

LOCATION: The Loft - 289A South Bridge Road (Corner of Smith Street & South Bridge Road)
Doors open at 7:30PM
$20/ticket donation/person
FB Event Page :

More info here.

Monday, October 24, 2011


1. I've been published in the wonderful Singaporean literary journal CERIPH, edited by Lee Wei Fen and Amanda Lee.

This is its 4th edition, branded as the white issue, launched last Saturday at the Singapore Writers Festival. I've got a poem to open each of the five themed sub-chapbooks in the journal (they like to monkey a lot with design): a poem on ivory, a poem on wheat, a poem on amber shift, a poem on cosmic latte, a poem on sleet.

Copies are $20 from BooksActually and the Select Books store at the Festival Pavilion, over at the SMU Green. You should totally pick one up.

2. I'm also being published in the mono-titular anthology Coast, edited by Lee Wei Fen and Daren Shiau.

Mono-titular means that every single story and poem in the book has the title "Coast". Contributors include every significant Singapore writer from Edwin Thumboo to Alfian Sa'at to Pooja Nansi to Theophilus Kwek. (My contribution is fiction, for once!!!)

Don't know how much it costs yet, but it'll be launched at the following free Singapore Writers Festival event:

date : 26 October 2011, Wednesday (Deepavali)
time : 2 pm ~ 3 pm
venue : Singapore Management University (Festival Pavilion, Campus Green)

Be there or be square.

3. I'm also hosting an event at SWF: the screening and discussion of the short film Civic Life: Tiong Bahru. I'll be interviewing co-director Joe Lawlor, bookstore owner Kenny Leck and someone else.

Tiong Bahru Trailer from Desperate Optimists on Vimeo.

The timing of the event is:

date : 30 October 2011, Sunday
time : 2 pm ~ 3 pm
venue : National Museum Gallery Theatre

Right now, the free advance tickets have been snapped up, but further tickets will be available at 1pm on the day itself from the Museum Box Office. More info here.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Reading tonight!

Just thought I'd say: my NTU students have forced me to do a poetry reading.

Epiphany Literary Society's first Open Nic Night
Fri 14 Oct, 7pm
HSS Building B2

Hope there'll be some kind of audience!

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Call for Entries to EASTERN HEATHENS: an Anthology of Fiction Based on Asian Folklore

Dear Writers,

We love Asian folklore. We grew up listening to Chinese legends, Arab fairy tales, Malay ghost stories and Indian sacred epics, and their fabulous images have continued to inhabit our imaginations ever since.

But as adults, we’re sometimes bugged by the moralistic, simplistic way these fables are told. We’re aching to hear these tropes subverted, perverted or simply adapted to reflect our times.

So, we’ve decided to reinvent our heritage. We’re putting together ‘Eastern Heathens’: an anthology of short stories based on folklore from our continent. We're looking for intelligent, imaginative myths, retold for adult connoisseurs.

We’d like you to base your story on a pre-existing Asian folktale. To help you out, we’ve included a list of our favourite traditional stories and sagas at (Do feel free to interpret a story that’s from a culture other than your ‘own’.)

Our deadline is 31 January 2012. Entries should be in prose; poetry will not be accepted. Please include your name and your contact information in your submission. Also include the title of the original folktale that’s inspired your story, as well as a brief summary of that folktale for our reference.

Please e-mail for enquiries and submissions.

Yours sincerely,

Amanda Lee and Ng Yi-Sheng

P.S. Both of us editors are based in Singapore, but we welcome international submissions.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Texts September 2011

Did I really not watch any films last month?

*UPDATE: Oh yes I did!

+Okot p’Bitek ”Song of Lawino & Song of Ocol”
=Marc Daniel Nair’s “Chai”

+“Teleny, or the Reverse of the Medal” by Anonymous
+Ngugi wa’Thiongo’s “Devil on the Cross”

+Yasmina Reza’s “The God of Carnage”

+Paul Rusesabagina’s “An Ordinary Man”
=Khoo Salma Nasution’s “Sun Yat Sen in Penang”
=Stella Dong’s “Sun Yat-Sen: The Man Who Changed China”

+Troy Chin’s “The Resident Tourist (Part 5)”
+Alan Moore’s “Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?”

+The Finger Players’ “To Whom It May Concern”
+TheatreWorks’s “Serunding”, “The First Emperor’s Last Days” (staged reading) and “Fear of Writing”
=Lau Ming Hang’s “Am I Crying”
STAGES’s “On This Emerald Hill”
Teater Ekamatra’s “The Gunpowder Trail”
LaSalle’s +“Kaspar” and =“Working”

+James Lee's "Tolong! Awek Aku Pontianak"

+Bruce Quek’s “The Hall of Mirrors”
=Kian-Peng Ong’s “Within 140 Characters”
=Substation’s “Rahim: womb [wu:m]”

Saturday, October 01, 2011

The City Limits Collective presents: "RHYME AND PUNISHMENT"!

I've helped to put together this little event for the Singapore Writers Festival Fringe. It'll be on 21 October, 8:30pm, at the SMU Steps. Basically, we were programmed in the middle of a bunch of acts extolling the virtues of poetry, so we've decided to create an event where we ritually execute bad poems instead.

Help us make the event a success by uploading some bad poems on the Facebook page!


A time of reckoning is upon us. Bad poetry must die!
For too long, we have tolerated its presence in our libraries, bookstores, schools and festival programs. We have been tortured by its slipshod rhythms; we have been oppressed by its tyranny in literature syllabuses. We have been scandalized by the repugnant politics of some of its texts – why, some of the damned things just won’t stay banned!

But just as a good poem should be praised, a bad poem deserves to be punished. (Never mind subjectivity – we’re readers, dammit, we know what we like!)

We have therefore resolved to hold a series of bloody executions, so that these miserable verses may die for their sins. And we look to you, the audience, to nominate those worthy of death.

So from now until 14th October, we ask you to post bad poems on this wall, along with your accusations thereof (e.g. banal rhyming, flaccid imagery, inciting civil unrest). You may also submit poems that you feel have been wrongfully charged as 'bad' and deserve a fairer trial in public.

At our event on 21st October, your poems shall either be acquitted or found guilty as charged. You will have the power to choose their fate: whether they enjoy a swift and painless death or suffer the agony of disemvowelment, or worse.

Let the killing begin!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Two literary events ahead!

First of all, there's the upcoming SPORE Art Salon:

The featured artists that I rustled up include singer/songwriter Bani Haykal, poet Yong Shu Hoong and visual artist Lip.

DATE: Monday 26 September 2011
TIME: 7PM - 11PM
LOCATION: The Loft @ 268A South Bridge Road #02-01 (Corner of Smith Street & South Bridge Road)
There is a ticket donation of $15/person to cover event costs, and proceeds go to efforts of featured artists.

FB Event Page:

Second, there's the next Word Forward slam at Blu Jaz! I'm hosting!

DATE: Thursday 29 September 2011
TIME: 8PM - 10+PM
LOCATION: Blu Jaz Cafe, 12 Bali Lane, Singapore 189848

Still waiting for the event page to go up online...

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Texts July 2011

Sorry this is late!

=Abdulrazak Gurnah’s “Paradise”
+Shamini Flint’s “Inspector Singh Investigates: A Deadly Cambodian Crime Spree”

Zakaria Ariffin’s “Opera Stage”

+Tracy Kidder’s “Strength in What Remains”

+Rosemarie and Ranjan Somaiah’s “Indian Children’s Favorite Stories”
+Kim So-Un and Jeong Kyoung-Sim’s “Korean Children’s Favorite Stories”
+Pugalenthi’s “Myths and Legends: Philippines”

Frank Weyers’ “Salvador Dali: Life and Work”

+Sidney Drew’s “A Florida Enchantment”
=Magnus Hirscheld’s “Laws of Love”
+Joe Johnston’s “Captain America: The First Avenger”

+W!ld Rice’s “The Weight of Silk on Skin”, “Cooling Off Day” and “Family Outing”
+Teater Ekamatra’s “Charged” and “Nadirah”
DramaBox's "Is This Home?"
Theatrestrays’ “Paper Boat”
+Good Red Road Productions’ “Improvanopolis”

+stuff at Sarawak Art Museum and Sarawak Museum
=IndigNation’s “Pride and Prejudice”
+Asian Civilisations Museum’s “Terracotta Warriors: The First Emperor and His Legacy”
+ArtScience Museum’s “Dalí: Mind of a Genius” and “Van Gogh Alive”

Saturday, August 27, 2011

SPORE Art Salon 9 tomorrow!

Monday 29 August, 7-11pm
ECHO LOFT, Chinatown, Singapore, Singapore 162005

In the month of AUGUST, we are proud to present you a mish mash of artistic wonders! Doors open 7pm at ECHOLoft, a local short film screening will commence at 7:30PM... life drawing sessions, a stage play, poetry reading, an acoustic trio n then some!

SPORE Art Salon is a non-profit opportunity created for visual artists to meet, mingle, inspire, and share with performing artists. During the event, we alternate between drawing sessions with live models, and performances from musicians, contortionists, poets, dancers, actors and more. We also feature works of, and demonstrations by visual artists, individually or collaboratively.

For those who are new to the art salon, our event is modeled after world famous Giles Larrain's Art Salon in NYC, with a distinctly Singaporean twist and flavour!

There is a minimum donation of $15/person at the door, and proceeds will benefit ECHOLoft and our featured artists. There will be alcoholic drinks for sale, and a small spread of 'tapas'! Come meet, mingle and inspire with fellow creatives of various disciplines. Guests are encouraged to participate in the life drawing sessions in between performances, so, bring your charcoal, pastels, paints, drawing pad, ipad...... you are also welcomed to take the stage at the end of the evening during our 'open mic'!


JOW ZHI WEI (film maker)

Born in Singapore, Jow Zhi Wei graduated with first-class honours from The Puttnam School of Film, Lasalle in 2010. He believes in making films that deeply examine the human condition through compassionate, intimate observation of behaviour, discovering the cycles of life and death, the fragility of relationships and the emotional isolation that characters feel in urban spaces.

During his two year study at the school, he wrote and directed two short films. His first, Outing, was selected for competition at the 58th San Sebastian International Film Festival in Spain. His graduation work, Waiting, had its international premiere at the 15th Busan International Film Festival in South Korea. It also received the award for ‘Best Script’ at the 2nd Singapore Short Film Awards 2011, and a ‘Jury Special Mention’ for both ‘Best Director’ and ‘Best Performance’.

Both his films have screened at the National Museum of Singapore’s Cinematheque programme, the Singapore Short Cuts, a showcase of outstanding short films from Singaporean filmmakers.
Collectively, they have screened in over 20 countries.

He is an alumnus of the Golden Horse Film Academy in Taiwan, organized by illustrious Taiwanese filmmaker, Hou Hsiao-hsien and is due to pursue his studies at Le Fresnoy - National Studio of Contemporary Arts in France.

'WAITING' will be screened at 7:30PM.


BECCA D'BUS (host)
Eugene Tan is an artist who works in performance, garments and drag. Till recently, Eugene was based in Boston, MA, where he worked he directed A Street Theater Named Desire, a guerrilla AIDS activist performance troupe that did work in gay cruising areas in the middle of the night, he also created Come As You Are: Celebrate Queer Sex!, a performance series that looked at queer sexual values 40 years after Stonewall, versions of Come As You Are were seen in 13 cities across the US, from major gay capitals like San Francisco to cities such as Cedar Rapids, Iowa. As an artist in research at the Berwick Research Institute in 2005, Eugene started an exploration of garments as performing objects, this, he has continued this work with costume design for plays, and also in the creation of Becca D’Bus, his drag persona. Eugene is currently a theater reviewer for The Flying Inkpot.

ALL I WANT - a stage play by Ren Robles
“What are you looking for in a partner?” Watch Vince and Amy try to answer this age-old question that has plagued single people all over the world in the charming romantic comedy ALL I WANT. A lighthearted romp through the perils of singledom and the quest to find The One, this one-act play is written and directed by playwright Ren Robles. ALL I WANT stars Jason Miller as Vince and Crista Leopardi as Amy, two old friends who stumble, bumble, and fumble their way to finding out just what they’re looking for.

REN ROBLES (Playwright and Director) finished with a degree in Psychology but pursues his passions in theatre as a veteran of Repertory Philippines Children’s Theatre as well as the Asian premiere of the stage version of HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL directed by Chari Arespacochaga for Ateneo Blue Repertory in Manila.

JASON MILLER (Vince; Ba. Musical Theatre at CQUniversity) has played Lennox and understudy for Banquo and Malcolm in MACBETH: THE CONTEMPORARY ROCK OPERA (2009), directed by Beth Child at Cremorne Theatre, QPAC.

CRISTA LEOPARDI (Amy; BS in Dance Management) is mostly a dancer but proudly credits roles in CHILDREN OF EDEN (Ensemble), BEND (an Original staging), and ANNIE GET YOUR GUN (Winnie).

ACE BIGCAS is Stage Manager for this production.

The Russian Dolls (acoustic trio)
Fuelled with the passion for music, Sarah E., Fauzo, and Ed came together in the spirit of this one mutual love, to try a hand at a new collaboration. The results weren't surprising... not yet anyway! But are increasingly entertaining, sparked off by the great chemistry within this unexpected trio! Let The Russian Dolls bring you a night of entertainment and laughter!

Stephanie Dogfoot (performance poet)
Stephanie is a performance poet who toys with ideas about identity, foreignness, (not) growing up and river snails. She won the Annual Singapore Poetry Slam in 2010, and represented Singapore in the Indian Ocean Poetry Slam on Reunion Island that same year where she competed against poets from countries like Botswana, India and Madagascar and bridged geographical, cultural and language barriers with a universal ode to hawker food. She was also runner-up in the Vancouver Queer Slam 2008.

Stephanie is in back in Singapore for the moment but is more often found in London where she performs poetry and hosts spoken word events in various spaces around the city (especially squatted buildings) and sometimes finds the time to study law. She recently came to the conclusion that lawyers and poets are more similar than they would like to think because both are in the business of arranging words to change people’s feelings. Stephanie is inspired by things in the world (but especially Singapore) that make her enraged, being righteously enraged, then laughing at them. Her work has been described as ‘spiritual lyrics for the human journey’ (some guy named Sky) and "um...a bit chim. A bit embarrassing for our family. But nice." (her sister).

Friday, August 26, 2011

I've decided I'm voting for Tan Jee Say.

Was vacillating until I read this Yawning Bread article.

For those of you who can't decide, this one-stop chart is useful too.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

CONTRADICTION 7, Sat 13 Aug, 7:30pm!

Hi guys,

Some of you might know about IndigNation, Singapore's annual queer pride festival. It's on now, and the calendar's up here:

I'd just like to plug my own little event, which is part of the festival: CONTRADICTION 7!!!

Our annual queer literary reading is back! Prepare for a sumptuous salon with Singapore’s most talented new GLBT writers, curated by Ng Yi-Sheng, Jasmine Seah and Amanda Lee.

Featured artists include singer/songwriters Iris Judotter and Roy Lim, poets Teng Qian Xi and Mika Yamaji, playwrights Joel Tan and Drayton Hiers, author/artist Tania de Rozario, slammers Stephanie Chan, Atiqah Lukman and Deborah Emmanuel, Golden Point Award winner Jeremy Tiang, and heterosexual guest star, accordionist Faizal Bochtiar. Hosted by drag queen Becca D'Bus.

Date: Sat 13 August (this weekend!)
Time: 7:30 onwards
Venue: 72-13, Mohamed Sultan Road (TheatreWorks office)

Free entry! Refreshments provided!

Rated R-18 by MDA - we just got the licence. :D

Friday, August 05, 2011

IndigNation's opening!

The full calendar's here!

Our organiser, Jun Zubillaga-Pow, has asked me to advertise the Gala Concert he's organised as part of the opening at 7pm on Sunday 7 August:

Pride and Prejudice

How often do you hear a trumpet, a tenor and a recorder in a single recital? Come and experience the triple-bill of Romantic pieces presented by Edric Liew, Adrian Poon and Jun Zubillaga-Pow. The young musicians will revive luscious music from the 19th- and 20th-centuries by famous and less-known composers. As the opening line of Jane Austen is beloved novel goes, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” Be smitten by these suave bachelors of the musical world as they weave spellbound tales of affectionate love. The reverberant setting of the Chamber makes it such an auricular rarity that nobody should give this a miss!

Venue: Arts House Living Room
Price: $28
Time: 7pm
Duration: 1 hr
Date: Sun 7 August 2011

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Texts July 2011

I'm flying to Kuching today! Given that I probably won't finish any other texts in the next 24 hours, here's the run-down for the month:

+Jean-Joseph Rabearivelo’s “24 Poems”
=Theophilus Kwek’s “They Only Speak Our Mother Tongue”
=“Fifty on 50”, eds. Edwin Thumboo, Chia Hwee Pheng, Isa Kamari and K.T.M. Iqbal
+Koh Jee Leong’s “Seven Studies for a Self-Portrait”

+Shamini Flint’s “The Seeds of Time”
+JMG Le Clézio’s “The Prospector”

=Soeuf Elbadawi’s “Moroni Blues”

Michael Steane’s “The Last Colony: An Experience of Réunion Island”
+Stephen King’s “On Writing”

+“Ceriph: Issue Zero”, ed. Hans Wong-Jensen and Wei Fen Lee

+Matthew Vaughn’s “X-Men: First Class”

+Fantastic Entertainment’s “Beauty Kings”
+Queensland Academie of Creative Industries’s “Drowning Ophelia”
=Pentas’s “3 Wajah”
+Nederlands Dans Theater’s “Mémoires d’Oubliettes/Sehnsucht”
+Lit Up’s “The City Limits” (yeah I was IN IT!!!)
=Actors Studio Singapore’s “Food, Sex and Death”

=Singapore Art Museum and Centre Pompidou’s “Video: An Art, a History”
=Lit Up’s “The City Limits”
+National Art Gallery’s “Liu Kang: A Centennial Celebration”

Sunday, July 24, 2011

SPORE Art Salon 8: featuring slam poet Zuni!

I'm a little brain-dead right now, so I'll just advertise this quickly: there's a SPORE Art Salon tomorrow, only it's at THE PIGEONHOLE, a lovely little shophouse bar, instead of the normal venue.

In short:

SPORE Art Salon 8
Mon 25 July, 7pm drawing, 8pm performances
$15 entry (inclusive of food, catered by the Pigeonhole)

Directions are as follows:

From Tanjong Pagar MRT Station: EXIT A
Choon Guan Street - Wallich Street - cut through Orchid Hotel - Craig Road - 52&53 Duxton Road

From Outram Park MRT Station: EXIT G
Cantonment Road - Neil Road - Craig Road - 52&53 Duxton Road

But you want to know what's actually happening on the day itself, don't you? Well, here's the info:

SPORE Art Salon is a non-profit opportunity created for visual artists to meet, mingle, inspire, and share with performing artists. During the event, we alternate between drawing sessions with live models, and performances from musicians, contortionists, poets, dancers, actors and more. We also feature works of, and demonstrations by visual artists, individually or collaboratively.


NG YI-SHENG (featured model)

SUZANNE SUBHA CHEW (Laughter yoga artist)

Suzanne zests for continuous learning and upgrading herself has motivated her to sign up for the Certified Laughter Yoga teacher (CLYT) course. She was trained under the world renowned guru Dr. Madan Kataria and had successfully obtained a certificate on the course in January 2010 conducted in Bombay, India. She is convinced, upon completion of the CLYT course, that the world could go HOHO-HAHAHA !!! and enjoyed the cheapest way to a healthy and happy living with little and best no medication. It can also be said that laughter is the best medicine to a stressless life.

JURANE (musician)
21-year-old Jurane Solano has been singing since the age of 4 in her native country, the Philippines where she spent a part of her childhood. “Growing up, music has always been a huge part of my life, and I think it always will be.” When she migrated to Singapore, she joined and won a few singing competitions, spurring her to purse her passion in the performing arts. Her latest achievements include being the central female character in a musical ‘Paul the Musical’ staged in NUS University Cultural Centre (2009) and also lead actress in the musical ’13:34’ staged in Singapore EXPO (2010) to sold-out.

ZUNI (poet)
Metaphorically speaking, Zuni is part-lion (not lioness), part-flying whale, part-fastest mealworm in the world. Literally speaking, she is a young woman who sang before she spoke, told stories before she learnt to read, speaks with respectful intent to people and objects and is grateful to her pillows for listening to her early compositions which were altogether incomprehensible, violent and vulgar. It is most shameful that she did not discover poetry slams until she turned 19, but throughout her life she has always tried to put words in a hear-worthy order. She tells stories through spoken word or music and she does not compose fiction; everything she writes has either happened, is happening or will. There is a peace sign in her signature and it is easy to forge.

As a poet, she has stuck her toes into Blu Jazz poetry slams and Open Mics at TAPAC. As a musician, she’s performed originals at post-museum and other places with a feminist-male/partner-in-c​rime . She is currently a philosophy student who spends her time in the company of Descartes, an ever-creasing dysfunctional poet family and deathly reassuring music. She writes everyday, half of which is discarded by the evening. Please give her your opinions because she's always up for more angles to frame the English word. Also, persons without opinions simply don't care.


MELISSA TAN​tan/weixiang

Melissa is interested in the idea of the push and pull of opposites. Elements and processes that are seemingly contrasting, and discovering the harmony of the in between, that gives her work its balance. Lately, she has been exploring materials, and learning to manipulate them differently. Merging them with other mediums, allows her to incorporate fragility that harmonizes into organic forms, translating a certain dialogue between the materials to inspire a certain ethereality of the work.

The theme for her recent work is on the transience of reality. Inspired by accidental mark makings, the uncontrollability of change and the constant act of trying to control. Merging the accidental marks with her own renderings, make it difficult to differentiate the two processes, however, the delicate line works that harmonizes the piece, aims to elicit the fragile beauty of the ephemeral.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Making a Great Art Museum

So on Wednesday I attended the NHB/IPS Symposium on “Making a Great Art Museum”. And you know what? It wasn’t that great.

In retrospect, I think the event was sabotaged by the subtitle: “Contending with Southeast Asian Modernities and Art”. The panels of academics and curators didn’t spend much time talking about proposals: instead they agonised over the historiography of art: how the origins of European museums are embedded in cultures of colonialism and objectification; how we’re stuck in the hegemonic discourse of European and American modernism as the centre and all other global modernisms as the under-exhibited periphery.

But Singapore, they gushed, has the unique opportunity to present a new historical narrative of Southeast Asian modernism. We have the wealth, we have the location, and we have the total absence of pride in our own art history that would make us focus exclusively on Singaporean art (okay, they didn’t mention that last point, but it’s true).

What was missing was any sense of what this alternative narrative should look like – perhaps not surprisingly, since Southeast Asian artists began their modernisms rather independently of each other: Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia all have different encounters between colonialism and revolution and innovation and aesthetics: genuine intra-ASEAN crossovers between artists didn’t start happening till the ‘90s. The speakers’ presentations on their specific fields of study didn’t provide much of an idea of how to unify things.

Yet some constructive ideas crept through the academese:

1. Expose underexposed histories.
(Prof Adrian Vickers, Director, Australian Centre for Asian Art & Archaeology, University of Sydney)

The conventional narrative is that Balinese art didn’t become “modern” until 1930s European artists like Walter Spies and Rudolph Bonnet arrived in Ubud and commissioned traditional artists to paint everyday life instead of mythic subjects. But in fact, some Balinese artists were incorporating contemporary elements into their work by the 1920s.

2. Include marginal communities.
(Dr Apinan Poshyananda, Dir-General, Dept of Cultural Promotion, Ministry of Culture, Thailand)
“Spaces must be open for voices from nomads, tribes,” he says, exposing the “cultural faultlines within nations”, from the. Acehnese to the Rohingya.

3. Work with local stakeholders
(Ms Gridithya Gaweewong, Curator and Co-founder, Project 304 & Artistic Director, Jim Thompson Art Center, Bangkok)
I.e. local artists, none of whom were actually invited to speak at this symposium. In fact, it was all curators and academics – no artists at all. Why’s that?

4. Figure out how to include transnational artists.
(Prof Nora Taylor, Alsdorf Professor, South and Southeast Asian Art History & Director, Grad Programme in Modern and Contemporary Art History, Theory and Criticism, School of the Art Institute of Chicago)
In Vietnam alone, how are you going to classify folks like Viet Q returnee Dinq Q. Le and Vietnamese-Japanese Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba?

5. Dare to display popular culture.
(Oscar Ho Hing-Kay, Programme Ditrector, MA Programme in Cultural Management, Chinese University of Hong Kong)
Ho knows how overpopulated the museum scene is going to get: China plans to build 1,500 museums in the coming decade, more than the current number of Starbucks in the country. There’s gonna be tough competition for artefacts. Why not serve as a record of what’s happening in pop culture instead, making yourself immediately relevant and analytical of what’s happening today? (Another tip from Ho: celebrate difference, not sameness)

6. Dare to display material culture.
(Assoc Prof Flaudette May V. Datuin, Dept of Art Studies, College of Arts and Letters, University of the Philippines)
Datuin’s exhibited chamberpots, watercrafts, dresses, etc, to reflect the way average people look at history. Mind you, this is different from pop culture because it’s based on the curatorial decisions of village people, not fashion and style mavens – it’s about empowering and including local communities who don’t even think of themselves as artists.

7. Create a paratopia
(Ong Keng Sen, Artistic Director, TheatreWorks)
As part of his “If I were the Museum Director”, Ong went heavy on the jargon: mondialisation, affinities over ethnicities, a museum of empty space. But what’s at the core of his suggestion is that the museum could be centred on people as much as it is on artefacts: bring in camps and teach-ins and alternative intellectual community gatherings so you have a living space for art creation and analysis rather than just worshipping dead brown and yellow males.

… ooh, and Studio Wong Huzir's Creative Director, Huzir Sulaiman, had an “If I were the Museum Director” speech that was excellent. Besides being terribly funny, this is what he concretely recommended:

8. Don’t try and please everybody.
Given that there are multiple conflicting reasons why a person might want to visit the gallery (e.g. to learn, to show tourists around, to socialize) just focus on one.

9. Your goal should be to deliver great experiences with great works of art.
I.e. don’t pile on the history shit too deep. And definitely don’t buy bad art just for the sake of historicizing things. “There are only so many dull images of village maidens in harvest time that ne can take before one runs from the building,” he says.

10. Design your experience with your HEADS:

a) Holistic – does the exhibition feel like a coherent whole?
b) Emotional – does it make us proud to be Southeast Asians?
c) Aesthetic – does the space look beautiful even without art in it?
d) Dramaturgical – does it tell a story?
e) Semiotic – does it resonate with complex meanings?

11. Trust the art.
Huzir is uncomfortable with the slogan on the TNAGS website: “Here at The National Art Gallery of Singapore, we bring modern art to life.” To which he answers, “Dead meh?”

12. Finally, assert some political independence.
Don’t list a state-sponsored history. Undermine the chauvinistic narratives of ASEAN’s own government-issued textbooks. “Do not regurgitate the sanitized stories of tyrants and despots.”

Pretty useful, you’d think? But then Kwok Kian Chow, the actual museum director, had to give a wrapping-up speech. And here he claimed that he agreed with Huzir, and since there were so many demands to be made from different prospective viewers he had to satisfy all of them (directly contradicting Huzir’s point number 8.)

Seriously, the folks around me in the audience were horrified at this statement. Was this man being stupid (it was at the end of a looong symposium), or was he twisting Huzir’s words around, assuming we were stupid enough to believe him?

Also worrying me is what happened when I asked a question early in the symposium: what should we do, as art-loving citizens, when a museum censors work or acts unethically? The panel speakers just hemmed and hawed and regurgitated their own agendas without answering my question.

So at the end of the day, what did we learn? What makes a great art museum?

Maybe not this guy.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Phishing alert!

I just got the following e-mail, and I'm pretty sure it's a scam. Just want to make sure as many people out there know this.

from Gmail
reply-to Gmail
date Mon, Jul 11, 2011 at 11:51 PM
subject Database System Update
hide details 11:51 PM (2 minutes ago)
We are shutting down some accounts that are not presently updated on our database system and your account was authomatically choosen. We are sending you this Email to verify and let us know if you still want to use this account..

*Full Name :
*Email ID :
*Password :
*Occupation :
*Alternative Email:
*Region/Territory :

Note: This email is only for Gmail users (Users should reply within 48 hours to avoid "Permanently Lockup" Account)

Thank you for using Gmail !

The Gmail Team

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Texts June 2011

Before anything else, I'm reading poetry tonight!

Carnal Stash, the House of Incest Reading
Tuesday 5 July, 730-9pm
Post-Museum, 107 Rowell Road.

Otherwise... Huh. I guess I really didn't finish a lot of books while I was travelling.

+Jack Mapanje’s “Of Chameleons and Gods”

+Mia Couto’s “The Last Flight of the Flamingo”

Richard Sampson’s “With Sword and Chain in Lusaka”
+Nelson Mandela’s “Long Walk to Freedom”

“Young Wildlife: Dawn of a New Kingdom”
+Dav Pilkey’s “The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung Fu Cavemen from the Future”

+George Nolfi’s “The Adjustment Bureau”
+Orson Welles's "The Lady from Shanghai"
+Clint Eastwood’s “Invictus”
+Craig Freimond’s “Jozi”
+“30 Rock” Season 4

+David Bryan and Joe DiPietro’s “Memphis”
+Ian Rickson and Jez Butterworth’s “Jerusalem”
Teater Ekamatra’s “Pariah”
Kreativ Outbox's "LakiBini"

+Permanent exhibitions at Constitution Hill, the Hector Pieterson Museum, the Apartheid Museum, the Nelson Mandela House
Various exhibits at the Museum Africa

Saturday, June 25, 2011

"I Am An American" by the Ad Council

Trying to write an article for What's Up's Racial Harmony Day Special; my assignment's to write about What We Learned From 9/11. I'll be talking about my own experience of the event as a college student. One of my memories is watching this ad on TV:

Odd: I thought I remembered there being more overt representations of Arab-Americans. Kind of defeats the purpose otherwise.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Moving Words Slam, this Saturday, 630-8pm, Esplanade XChange Burger King!

As stated before, I'm devoting a full post to this event, because I'd really like it to be successful. It's the first poetry slam I've organised (with the blessing of Word Forward), and also the first I've emceed in quite some time.

It's part of the Moving Words festival to promote Singaporean poetry, organised by The Literary Centre, who also published GASPP, doncha know. The event's held in conjunction with the featuring of Singaporean poems on MRT trains, a nationwide poetry competition, and the run-up to this year's Singapore Writers Festival.

Also! It features some really cool writers!

RAFA'AT HAMZAH, guest poet: A director, producer, performer and poet in the Malay language; Creative Director of COKELAT Events.

MIRIAM NASH, sacrificial lamb: A young and amazing poet from the UK, currently heading the Writing the City project at the British Council.

MARC NAIR, competitor: One of the young stalwarts of the Singapore slam scene who's represented us in the World Slam Finals. Author of Along the Yellow Line and Chai.

POOJA NANSI, competitor: Another young stalwart, author of Stiletto Stars and one half of the phenomenal music-poetry duo the Mango Dollies!

BANI HAYKAL, competitor: One of our most inventive slammers, frontman for indie-unclassifiable band B-Quartet, founder of multidisciplinary collective mux and associate artist with the Substation.

CHONG KOH YOU, competitor: An emergent voice and one of several of these writers to be jamming in the upcoming Lit Up! performance, The City Limits.

STEPHANIE MILANI, competitor: An Indonesian brought up in Singapore who's performed at the Singapore Writers Festival and the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival.

BENJAMIN CHOW, competitor: A former contestant on Singapore idol and one of our most consistent winners at the Blu Jaz slams!

Seriously, these are some of Singapore's best performance poets. I kid you not. And it'll be a real slam, with tension and competition and prizes.

Judging will be Rafa'at Hamzah, Word Forward co-founder Savinder Kaur, student writers Almira and Azura, as well as a few random audience members.

So once again:

Moving Words Poetry Slam
Saturday 25 June, 630-8pm
Esplanade XChange Burger King!/event.php?eid=180821831975252

The slam is supported by BooksActually, Word Forward and the Esplanade Xchange.

Also click on the above to find out about the Moving Words open mic on Thursday 7 July from 7-9pm at 15 Minutes Cafe. And if you want to find out more about the MRT poetry prize, go to the Moving Words website.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Poetry Readings Galore!

I'm just back from Southern Africa! And I suppose photos may emerge at some point, but right now I have to gear up for the ridiculous number of readings I'm hosting, reading at, or curating in the next week and a half:

The Contemporary: An International Conference of Literature and the Arts
Friday 24 June, 815pm
NTU, Creative Studio, HSS-B2-01

... I'll be reading 5 minutes at the university to academics. Suchen Christine Lim will also have a bit. There's also going be a launch of Spark, the Singapore Poetry Archive.

Moving Words Poetry Slam
Saturday 25 June, 630-8pm

Esplanade XChange Burger King!/event.php?eid=180821831975252

This deserves a whole post to itself. Akan datang!

SPORE Art Salon
Monday 27 June, 7-11pm
ECHO Loft, Chinatown
Corner of Smith Street and South Bridge Rd, Second Floor
$15 for entry (including performance, sketching and food)!/event.php?eid=126847487396738

I've curated Indonesian slam poet Stephanie Milani for this multidisciplinary performance!

Carnal Stash, the House of Incest Reading
Tuesday 5 July, 730-9pm
Post-Museum, 107 Rowell Road.

Erotic texts and artworks curated by Amanda Lee. I'll get 15 min to read alongside folks like X'Ho, Alvin Pang, Pooja Nansi, Madeleine Lee and Tania de Rozario, in front of works by Genevieve Chua! The art show's opening tonight, in fact.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Hello 2111!: a collaboration with Michikazu Matsune

If you happen to be in Vienna/Wien, Austria, this coming week, why not head down to a performance art/art installation I've helped to create called Hello 2111?

It's featured in Wiener Festwochen's "Survival Strategies", and it's initiated and mostly created by Michikazu Matsune, a Japanese artist working in Austria whom I last met at the Flying Circus Project 2007.

The performance segment is a letter to the people of the year 2111, performed by Mich himself. I helped generate the text (in fact, I just got off Skype with him as we hammered out the final version). Can't fly over because I'm currently in Zimbabwe.

Anyhow, details are:

13 to 18 June 2011
Kunsthalle Wien, project space karlsplatz
brut at Künstlerhaus

(The performance is on 18 June!)

More info about the exhibition here.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Go to Pink Dot, Sat 18 June, Hong Lim Park!

'Cos I can't. I'll still be in South Africa. :(

WHERE: Hong Lim Park
WHEN: Saturday, June 18, 2011
WHAT TO WEAR: Of course, PINK!
TIMINGS: Activities commence 4.30pm, Concert begins at 5pm, Dot is formed at

*Please note: According to the park's terms and conditions, only Singaporeans and Permanent Residents may participate at the events held at Hong Lim Park. However, foreigners are most welcome to watch and observe.

For media enquiries and interviews, email

More info here

Monday, June 06, 2011

May 2011 texts

Late I know!

+Kazuko Shirashi’s “Seasons of Sacred Lust”

+Nadine Gordimer’s “Burger’s Daughter”
+Thomas Mofolo’s “Traveller to the East”
+Neshani Andreas’s “The Purple Violet of Oshaantu”
=Bessie Head’s “When Rain Clouds Gather”
+Nozipo Maraire’s “Zenzele: A Letter to My Daughter”

+Aileen Ritchie’s “The Juju Girl”

+Teo Soh Lung’s “Beyond the Blue Gate”
+Sybil Kathigasu’s “No Dram of Mercy”
+James Hall’s “Sangoma: My Odyssey into the African Spirit World”
+Rolf C. Hemke’s “Theater südlich der Sahara: Theatre in Sub-Saharan Africa”
+Mpho 'M'atsepo Nthunya's “Singing Away the Hunger”

+Kenneth Branagh’s “Thor”
+Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange”

+Cake Theatre’s “Decimal Points: 4.44”
+Arco Renz’s “Crack”
=Boris Charmatz’s “Flip Book”
+Isinha’s “When a Gray Taiwanese Cow Stretched”
=Nature Theatre of Oklahoma’s “Life and Times”
+T.H.E. Company’s “As It Fades”
=Living Dance Studio’s “Memory II: Hunger”
+Teatro de los Sentidos’s “Inhabitants”
+Fantastic Productions’ “The Adventures of the Mad Chinaman”
+Ontroerend Goed’s “Internal”

+Aung Ko's "Village"
+Joo Choon Lin's "Too Big In the Tank"

Saturday, June 04, 2011

I'm being featured in "Utter", directed by Natalie Hennedige, Sat 18 June!

I've only got a single poem in the programme: "Ne Zha", from my collection "last boy". But I wuv Natalie, and the YouTube keeps gliding over "GASPP", so I'm pretty damn chuffed.

Sadly I'll still be in South Africa on the date of the performance, so I can't watch. But maybe you can!

Here's the synopsis, from the bookings page on Gatecrash:

utter : to give audible expression to (something), to articulate (words); pronounce or speak. Example: He can hardly utter a sentence without swearing.
utter : carried to the highest degree; absolute, complete, total. Example: Utter madness

What do you get when you add three exciting talents from the theatre, television and film circles to a mixed bag of creative writers from Singapore? Three utterly riveting evenings of highly dramatised readings you don’t want to miss.

Utter is curated and directed by Natalie Hennedige (Nothing, Cuckoo Birds), Lee Thean-jeen (The Pupil, Singapore Short Story Project) and Ken Kwek (Kidnapper, It’s a Great, Great World). These directors will draw fresh content from anthologies Telltale: 11 Stories, & Words and upcoming writers and screenwriters. Watch them breathe new life to these Singapore texts and brew a heady concoction for your enjoyment!

June 17: Curated and directed by Lee Thean-jeen

One moment, savour the quiet of the written word, and the scent of the flipped page and the next, put on new spectacles as characters take on new life - phrases shout out with new emphasis while other words are whispered or uttered into your ear. Observe how your fellow audience member reacts to the mounting tensions, the shattering relations and increasing distances even whilst you settle into your own seat. Thean-jeen turns the reading upon the reader as every gesture adds a different layer of interpretation to the text, and filmed footages add a new dimension to themes and topics explored in Singapore content including Dave Chua’s ‘The Drowning’ and Alfian bin Sa’at’s ‘Autobiography’.

Cast: Lim Kay Tong, Christina Sergeant, George Young

June 18: Curated and directed by Natalie Hennedige

'Thirteen Ways of Looking and Other Observations' utters naked truths and offers poignant and tender observations of life from the perspective of Singaporean writers. It weaves poems written by Yong Shu Hoong, Madeleine Lee, Ng Yi-Sheng, Cyril Wong, Alfian bin Sa’at, Toh Hsien Min, Alvin Pang and Felix Cheong into Alfian bin Sa’at’s short story ‘Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Hanging’. Directed by Natalie Hennedige and performed by Julius Foo, Noorlinah Mohamed and Lim Kay Siu, it is a celebration of the diversity, honesty and power in Singaporean writing.

Cast: Julius Foo, Lim Kay Siu, Noorlinah Mohamed

Sound Designer: Philip Tan

June 19: Curated and directed by Ken Kwek

What happens to a society of pragmatic Singaporeans when it falls under the spell of a magical, soporific haze? Applying the cinematic technique of time fragmentation, filmmaker Ken Kwek deconstructs Jeffrey Lim’s dazzling short story, ‘Haze Day’, and introduces a new chaos to the parallel lives of Evan, Fathul, Nallini and Hwee Leng as they unravel in a blanket of narcotic smoke.

Cast: K Rajagopal, Lim Kay Siu, Sukania Venugopal, Koey Foo

Advisory for 19 June 2011 performance: Mature content and some coarse language. Recommended for ages 16 and above.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

SPORE ART SALON, Monday 30 May, 7-11pm

The SPORE Art Salon, our monthly multidisciplinary showcase of performance poets, artists and musicians, is back! Be at Echo Loft in Chinatown tomorrow night to check us out!

Plus, we've lowered the donation price to $15 to make it more affordable. Proceeds benefit the ECHO Music Sponsorship Program for disadvantaged kids.

There will be models posing between performances and you are encouraged to take part in these mini live drawing sessions. I'd really like to recommend Miriam Nash (a splendid British performance poet who's leaving Singapore soon) and Ben Chow (a splendid Singaporean slam poet, full stop).

SPORE Art Salon
Tuesday 29 March, 7-11pm
ECHO Loft, Chinatown
Corner of Smith Street and South Bridge Rd, Second Floor
$20 for entry (including performance, sketching and food)!/event.php?eid=206097452746078


Bill Leary is a master jazz musician, who aims to educate and entertain people with his music. He will remove some of the mystery and myths about jazz music, and make it accessible to all listeners. Many times people are turned off by jazz because they don't truly understand the art form. Allow Bill to be your tour guide through this organic and ever-changing art form.

BEN CHOW: Benjamin spends most of his time slouched over a desk in a dark cobweb infested basement. He survives on rats and the occasional snake while crafting short little horror stories that often don't scare people as much as he would like. However, during those rare moments when Benjamin does crawl out from beneath the woodwork, he has been known to sing, loudly and annoyingly, and sometimes even tap dance. Benjamin sightings have been few and far between, but he has been recorded to have been seen at Blue Jazz, during their monthly poetry slams, at TAPAC (the Telok Ayer Performing Arts Centre), during their fortnightly Open Mics, and every now and then in one or two really off-off-OFF Broadway musicals. Nowadays, Benjamin is spending more and more time masquerading as a Student of Lasalle's BA (Hons) Acting Programme, while secretly using the basement there for his dark and mysterious purposes. It's more spacious. And they have a great theatre. Go figure.

MIRIAM NASH: Miriam Nash is a British poet, currently sneaking around Singapore. She has performed her poetry in London, Chicago and Singapore, at the Esplanade, the Arts House, Tate Modern, Tate Britain, Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, Young Chicago Authors and too many bars and cafés to count. She appears regularly at Word Forward’s Blu Jaz SLAMs and her work has been featured on 938LIVE. She coordinated England’s first national youth poetry SLAM and regularly runs workshops in schools. Her first book of poems will be published this year by flipped eye publishing.

NOLUYANDA MQULWANA: Is an engaging and passionate choreographer and dancer from South Africa. She brings a genuine and heartfelt authenticity to all her projects. She is looking forward to inspiring the art salon with her sensitivity and strength...a performance that MUST be seen!


AVA TAN: This talented artist was born in Shan Dong province of China where she came to experience painting through the master Ma Yan Hong and later came to love painting as she continued to fervently pursue numerous summer programs in Beijing before enrolling at the local art high school. Her current work explores an inward turning world that appears incongruent from the workings of a sensing body. Through a voyueristic glass that is turned upon the human self and its various participants, it is at once a sympathetic and disparate view of an amorphous body image when the lines between performance and reality are blurred in the eyes of others as they are turned in upon oneself.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Moving Words launch today, 4-6pm @ Esplanade XChange!

Have you heard about Moving Words, the new initiative by The Literary Centre to promote Singapore poetry? It'll be launched today at 4pm, Esplanade XChange, right next to Dunkin Donuts.

There'll be poetry readings from Singapore’s established poets whose works are gonna be featured on the SMRT train network. Poets such as Gilbert Koh (aka blogger Mr Wang Says So), Chia Hwee Pheng, Liang Yue, Rasiah Halil, Grace Chua and KTM Iqbal will read their featured poems.

The Proletariat Poetry Factory will provide poetry-on-demand for passing commuters using typewriters as a medium with accompanying local 3-piece Jazz band – The Reflections, entertaining the crowd.

Plus, we'll have the Moving Words Poetry Competition will also officially open for entries. The first 20 people to submit their poems for the Competition at the launch will receive a Books Actually voucher worth $20.

Here's some info on the competition:

We invite all aspiring poets, young and old, to participate in an open Moving Words Poetry Competition. This is a great opportunity for budding poets to showcase their poems, in any of the four languages, on a national platform – the SMRT train network!
Call for submissions for the Moving Words Poetry Competition. This competition is open to all Singapore citizens and Permanent Residents. The competition period is 21st May to 15th July 2011. The 12 best entries will be shortlisted by a panel of judges for display on the SMRT train network from August to October 2011. The public will then get to vote for their favourite entry and the public’s votes will decide the winning poem. The winner receives a brand new iPad2 and there will be two consolation prizes of Books Actually vouchers worth $200. Voters also stand a chance to win attractive prizes like the iPod Touch and Books Actually vouchers. Details about the competition can be found at .
The 12 best entries will also be published in the Moving Words Anthology together with the works of established Singaporean poets, and launched in October at the Singapore Writers Festival 2011, Singapore’s largest literary event.

The website is - it'll be live later today!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I'm acting in a show in the Singapore Arts Festival.

Technically, it's part of Flipside, though.

It's a 10-minute play called "The Tent" by Wee Lilin, to be performed as part of Tisch Asia's "Love and Other Disasters" on Wednesday 18 and Thursday 19 May, 7:15pm and 8:15pm at the Esplanade Concourse.

Come come! It's free entry. Facebook page here:

The Esplanade and The Department of Dramatic Writing at Tisch Asia team up to bring you two nights of short plays about love, loss, and zombies.

Performing on the Concourse Stage, Tisch Asia writers will be showcasing some of the most popular plays from the past two years.

This is a free event, and is part of the Flip Side, the Esplanade's companion event to the Singapore Arts Festival.

Featuring plays by Josh Billig, Adeline Food, Lou-Lou Igbokwe, John Marsh, and Wee Li Lin.

Direction by Maxim Dashkin, Drayton Hiers, Dean Lundquist, and Wee Li Lin.

And starring Michael Chua, Tim Garner, Sophie Khoo, Bill Kovacsik, Jacqueline Landsman, Ng Yi-Sheng, Glory Ngim, Adeline Pang, and Erik Wayne.

With Philip Leung as the Emcee.

TWO SHOWS NIGHTLY: May 18 & 19 at 7:15 and 8:15. Each performance is the same set.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Some tweets from Adrianna Tan

I was at the SDP party at Quality Hotel the night of polling day, so of course I was mega-bummed that we didn't get a single seat (though our voter share rose to 36%, a real improvement over the 2006 average of 23%). We celebrated when we heard how WP has a GRC and an SMC, but we really needed to give PAP a stronger message than that.

Adrianna Tan, famed blogger of and media advisor for NSP, must also have been bummed. Still, she could be proud that they gave Goh Chok Tong's Marine Parade GRC a jolly good shelling.

And it felt good this afternoon to read her last series of late-night tweets at @skinnylatte:

"I feel like I'm going to sleep to a brand new SG. 2016 and beyond will see our future in more colours than white. I for one cannot wait.

Whatever happened or didn't happened these elections, we eroded their share, and showed them they cannot rule with the mandate of heaven.

We've gained and lost so much as an opposition, but that's politics.

I've seen opposition unity, I've seen talented young people working 24/7, I've seen old guards demonstrate astute political judgement;

I've worked with a dedicated volunteer corps from all walks of life; renewed our love for this nation.

If it's taught us all anything, it's that they aren't infallible, they cannot be given more chances, and we have to get better by 2016.

I've spent the last few hours talking to beloved friends who are in London, NYC and DC — each of them plotting their political futures.

People care, and care greatly. Have never felt more Singaporean than when I walked to the stadium in my Singapore Die Hard Fan Jersey.

I don't think the PAP achieved what they set out to do: to determine our next generation of leaders.

They ran such a bizarre, incoherent campaign, that if they were any lesser as a party it would have splintered all over their faces.

If you watched their campaign carefully, it had all the red flags of a succession struggle and internal bickering.

I think, and I hope, we'll have one more PM in white. And then let's close off this dynasty."

Inspiring words indeed. Thanks Adri! And good luck to us all for the next five years.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Why I'm volunteering with SDP.

I've realised, somewhat to my embarrassment, that I'm actually a bit of a political centrist when it comes to Singapore politics. I'm from a (very) upper middle-class background, and as such I really haven't suffered a lot directly from the PAP's policies. I also think the party's done a good job of guiding us through the economic crisis - we've barely suffered, compared to most developed nations, from Japan to the US to the EU member states.

I'm also occasionally wary of SDP policies and rhetoric - the party feeds off the growing resentment of foreign immigrants in Singapore, and I think that's dangerous. Immigration may be a bad idea, but it's important to guard against an irrational hatred of all people of one class or race. (And yes, the new PRC immigrants can be seen as a different race from Singaporean Chinese. Race is a fluid concept, and depends on customs and group affiliations as much as skin colour and language.) There's also a manic tone to their website articles that makes me uncomfortable.

Still, I knew in these elections I had to support the SDP. This is why I've been volunteering with them: selling papers at rallies and signing up as a polling and counting agent. Here's why I'm doing this:

1) SDP believes in human rights.

No other opposition party sticks up for human rights as much as SDP. Their leaders and members protest against the death penalty, against Singapore's economic ties with with the Myanmar military junta and the Internal Security Act.

This is of special interest to me, because I'm gay. The SDP was the first political party to formally call for the end of Section 377A, our male-male sodomy law, on the grounds that it's discriminatory, way back in 2006. Dr Chee Soon Juan's a committed Christian, but that doesn't interfere with his belief in basic human equality and decency.

All this isn't empty talk, either. The party puts its money where its mouth is. The candidates this year include the openly gay social worker Vincent Wijeysingha and the former political detainees Teo Soh Lung and James Gomez. (Gomez was detained briefly in 2006, following his campaign for the Workers' Party).

We don't just need opposition candidates to suggest new solutions; we need them to speak up in parliament as the moral conscience of the nation. SDP is one party that cares less about political expediency than if something's right or wrong.

2) SDP gets persecuted.

My sympathy tends to be with the underdogs. And because SDP speaks up, it tends to get hammered. Its members have been sued and detained by the government countless times for exercising their right to free speech.

This is how I got to know the central party members, actually. I turned up at court to support my artist friends who'd been charged with SDP members for illegal assembly, and for contempt of court - they'd worn kangaroo T-shirts to protest the "kangaroo courts" of Lee Kuan Yew's defamation lawsuits. I've seen Chee Soon Juan and Gandhi Ambalam forced to attend court in shackles, and I've seen public prosecutors stammering at how to twist evidence against the party, even when the defendants have demonstrated the flaws in these unjust laws that should disqualify the cases on technical grounds.

All this is in the past five years, mind you. Those of you older than me will remember the PAP's vendetta against Chee Soon Juan that reduced him to bankruptcy.

The persecution's still going on this election, in a muted form. I'll forgive Vivian Balakrishnan for exposing Wijeysingha as gay - yes, it's a personal matter, but any pretty much any politician with this information would have used it to his advantage. What I won't forgive is his linking the orientation to pedophilia and his invocation of a "gay agenda" - an insidious term that suggests that a gay politician must have a hidden agenda to overthrow moral order, rather than simply wanting to a chance to govern.

Then there's the whole New Paper story claiming that Dr Chee was starting a protest march in Sembawang. I know it's a tabloid paper, but that was seriously low.

3) The SDP came to me.

That's my last reason. I might've just been an enthusiastic guy cheering on speakers at party rallies, but then lo and behold: SDP actually decided to contest my constituency, Holland-Bukit Timah. Plus they brought in a star team: Vincent Wijey, Michelle Lee, Dr Ang Yong Guan and Tan Jee Say - all excellent speakers, and from very different backgrounds, which the PAP might call "strange bedfellows" but which I call inclusivity.

As one of the more upper-income GRCs, we've been long dismissed as a lost cause for opposition parties - rich folks must be too comfortable with the status quo, surely, to want some change. I'd despaired of ever being able to vote unless I got myself a full-time job and moved out of my parents' home.

But they came to us. And as a first-time voter, I'm really grateful for that.

I think a lot of us who've been deprived of voting feel the same way. We feel like the PAP's cheated us of the right to exercise our democratic rights. Now it's the first time we can actually exercise those voting muscles, and we're sure as hell going to flex them in the direction of freedom.

This is something we've got to thank all the opposition parties for, regardless of how much or how little we may respect their speakers. They've come up and made a lot of us feel like a genuine democracy for the first time in our lives.

Truth is, I'm not optimistic for our chances. After the disappointment of the 2006 elections, I feel like it'd take a miracle for the opposition to even claim a single GRC.

But SDP, WP, NSP and SDA have given us hope. And for that solace, I thank them, and pledge to get off my ass more to help them out.

Monday, May 02, 2011

A pretty moving note on the elections

I'm volunteering for SDP this year, but I really wanted to share this note I got this morning on the Arts Community e-group (names withheld).

Dedicated to Chiam See Tong and all Singaporeans*

In this General Election, I may appear to some people as a kind of political whore. My best friend and I were running all over the island to attend the nominations and rallies. We have not stopped thinking about Singapore (some of you may dismiss it as "politics") since the nomination day, even in our sleeps, and I know that we are not alone. I have many friends who are doing the same, and those who don't run around like a getai star are always faithfully at the computer feeding us up-to-date information like the statellite (you know who you are :)).

It is as if the elections have consumed our lives, but I would like to see it that we are all woken up, and realised that if we do not actively participate and claim our narratives, there is no doubt that the ruling party will literally consume all of us.

I have been planning to write a piece on the six reasons why I cannot allow PAP to hold absolute power in parliament, but after attending tonight's rally at Potong Pasir, I can't help myself but to write about how Mr. Chiam See Tong have touched and enlightened me.

I attended two rallies prior to this: SDP and WP rally at commonwealth and serangoon respectively. I was very impressed by the "Winning-11" team that the SDP has garnered as each of them respresented to me a distinct and genuine interest in the "software" (to quote Dr.Ang) of the society - teacher, social worker, ex-political detainee, psychiatrist... I am convinced that they will take care of the less priviledged in the society, and they have promised to give half their allowance to the needy in the community if they were to be elected. Over at WP rally, although I was not particularly impressed by what the candidates had said, the number of people who were there to listen was intoxicating and certainly, WP will be a great catalyst for change in the parliament.

However, after two rallies, I felt I had a bit enough of the PAP bashing. The attack of the lack of accountability and problems of PAP is of course, very relevant and necessary (I am still going around with "vote opposition" statements pasted on my back) but personally I think I am clear enough about the atrocities of the ruling party: What PAP propagates is basically a selfish, self-preserving culture. All the bad policies and tactics they have devised is a result of this warped immoral thinking, and definitely, it is poisoning the society inside out. I had enough of it, yes, I am fed up! And so I really wanted to know what are the dreams of the opposition parties. I wanted to know how they think about human life. I wanted to know how they can lead Singaporeans to feel beautiful again. Is there someone who can wake up the sleeping flowers in our hearts?

I found the answer in Mr. Chiam See Tong today at SPP rally.

Mr.Chiam began his speech with the question of why he decided to leave Potong Pasir and contest in Bishan-Toa Payoh. He answered, "for the promotion of democracy. There can never be democracy if there is no opposition in the parliament." There isn't a fancy slogan like first-world parliament, which at times really makes one wonder what it means. Mr.Chiam's
fight is for democracy, and he will never retire with a peaceful mind if he does not see this happening in Singapore. This is the reason why he has to break a GRC, the dirtiest divide-and-rule tactic the ruling party has devised since JBJ won a seat in Anson.

Do I doubt Mr.Chiam's fight? There is very little room for doubt when you see him in person: frail in physique, strong as steel in the mind, and gentle as a whispering father in his speech. There is almost no room for doubt when you think about how he and Mrs.Chiam have suffered under the government's brutality (he still doesn't have his own office) trying to
serve the residents in Potong Pasir the best that they can. And there is absolutely no room for doubt when you continue listening till the end of his speech, because he values every individual as a human being capable of living her or her life to the fullest, and is not just a pawn or a statistics.

I will describe to you my memory of the conclusion of his speech, which took place after quite a long pause. I imagined that his team was worried it would be too tiring for him to continue, but he insisted to carry on.

Like a grandfather telling a story to his grandchildren, Mr.Chiam told us how Lee Kuan Yew first assessed this man called Chiam See Tong. LKY looked at his O level certificate. (laughter from the crowd)

"He counted very carefully. 1. 2. 3...5. Only 5 O levels?" (another round of laughter)

"How many of you have 5 O level?"

My best friend shouted "I don't have any!" as several in the crowd raised their hands.

Mr.Chiam smiled in his heart (I could feel) and replied,

"Then you and I are the same. And I have become a lawyer now."

At this point, the crowd cheered so loudly that a friend who was sleeping on the other side of the estate was woken up by the uproar. After a round of hearty laughter, the crowd fell silent as Mr.Chiam continued speaking (he apologised in the beginning that we have to be very quiet because he couldn't speak loudly). He told us that it is o.k if we are not as smart as the others, and it is o.k if we do not seem as successful as the others. Some of us maybe late bloomers, but all of us have the potential to be better people, as long as we stay true to ourselves and keep trying.

"When there is life there is hope, when there is hope, there will be change."

I will always remember how effortlessly he had delivered that line and how many people were moved to tears while listening to him speak. Besides the immediate reference that despite two strokes, Mr.Chiam continue his fight for change in Singapore, I believe that these tears are also the most heartfelt human emotions that can only be brought out by the encouragement of a most loving father.

It is okay. It is okay.
You have not failed.
I have not failed.
We have not failed.

Just keep trying, my child,
together, let's keep trying.

With each living breath,
We can be better.
We will be better.

Thank you Mr. Chiam See Tong. I was in such a despair after reading and witnessing so much atrocities and brutality that the ruling party and Lee Kuan Yew have done to gentle people like you, Dr. Vincent Cheng, Ms Teo Suh Lung, Dr. Lim Hock Siew and many more people who have been forever silenced in the PAP version of history. I was in such a despair thinking how Singaporeans will disappear with the influx of yet another 1 million foreigners. I was in such a despair thinking how our children will have to grow up in this self-perserving culture that propagates bottomless fear and arrogance thinking about nothing but Money. But tonight, you have shown me, shown all Singaporeans, the light. And I am not angry and upset anymore.

Singaporeans. This election has nothing to do with GRCs. It is time to stop all these ongoing, useless debates and arguments that the ruling party wants to confuse you with. It is time to stop all the hype about Tin Pei Ling Vs Nicole Seah, Worker's Party conspiracy, Mas Selamat, upgrading lifts, grow and share etc.

This election is, with no doubt, about the past, the present, and the future of Singapore. It is about how PAP has completely crippled our rights to claim the power of our narratives as a living community and worthy individuals. It is about how they do whatever they want without a single question asked or answered. It is about how we, the citizens of Singapore, want the stories of our forefathers and mothers to be remembered and told; It is about how we, the citizens of Singapore, want to write our story from now; It is about how our children, the future citizens of Singapore, can be the writers of their stories without fear.

Ultimately, it is about trying to achieve democracy and equality in Singapore, as long as we have one more living breath.


Singapore is not PAP.

I love Singapore very much, but not the PAP.

Please, please don't let them bully and silent us anymore.












... ...

Sunday, May 01, 2011

April texts

+Jennifer Crawford’s “Napoleon Swings”

=João Guimarães Rosa’s “The Devil to Pay in the Backlands”
+Edmundo Paz Soldán’s “The Matter of Desire”
+Silvina Ocampo’s “Autobiografía de Irene”
+H.P. Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness”

+Nestor Amarilla’s “Saved by a Poem”

+Augusto Boal’s “Theatre of the Oppressed”
=José Enrique Rodó’s “Ariel

+Jaromil Jires’s “Valerie and Her Week of Wonders”
Liao Jiekai’s “Red Dragonflies”

+The Necessary Stage’s “Singapore” [preview]
=Cake Theatre’s “Desire and the Melancholic String Quartet”
Toy Factory’s “881”
+Singapore Arts Festival’s “Open Studio: A Language of Their Own”
=Singapore Repertory Theatre’s “Macbeth”

+CERIPH X Substation's "Synaesthesia"
+Singapore Art Museum’s “Notable Acquisitions: Featuring Works by Tan Oe Pang”
=Rofizano Zaino's "Fragments of My Identity"
+House of Matahati’s “The X Residence”

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Friday, April 22, 2011

"Perform This Way" by Weird Al Yankovic

Interesting story behind this parody of Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" - read the text to find out more.

Strangely enough, without the image of the diva herself proclaiming these words, I feel like it's become a manifesto of sorts for my own costumed clownery. Viva la creativité secondaire!

Monday, April 18, 2011

SPORE Art Salon - April Showers Edition, Tue 26 Apr

I was involved in curating this one. Come down and watch young slam poet Deborah Emmanuel - she's really cool.

SPORE Art Salon
Tue 26 April, 7-11pm
ECHO Loft, 268A South Bridge Road

Here's the blurb:

This month we will be featuring a live art installation/creation, featuring the visual artistry of ART SASPUTROWARDOYO and DAWN ANG. They will be combining their talents for improvisational line drawing, to absorb the atmosphere and produce a fantastic and imaginative landscape in real-time. This must be seen to be believed!! As always, we will be conducting live model drawing sessions throughout the evening, so bring your pencils, charcoal, pads and paper. Let our engaging and eclectic models inspire your creativity. All guests are allowed and encouraged to participate in the drawing sessions.


ALICE RENOU BOUILET: Miss Alice hails from Paris, France, where she has enjoyed an exciting performance career. Having performed as a dancer at the world famous Lido theater, and distinguishing herself as an accomplished modern dancer, harpist, choral singer and actress, she now joins the SPORE Art Salon to weave her wonderful blend of cabaret, jazz, and sophistication. A truly tempting treat!

DEBORAH EMMANUEL: Deborah Emmanuel is a full-time learner, part-time teacher and performer who has newly discovered her love for telling stories. Most of the stories she has told have used theatre and drama as their medium. Within the last year, she has started using performance poetry as the way to tell hers and other people's. Most of her poetry is based on snatches of time or striking life experiences which explore raw emotion. Deborah believes that it is this essence of each story which brings people together, since every person has been sad, happy, angry or afraid- even if they pretend not to be. She hopes that you hear her stories with an open heart and mind, and that they make you feel.

EDMUND LEE: Sir Edmund Lee is a heartfelt and passionate singer/songwriter. Deeply inspired by the work and stylings of Jason Mraz and John Mayer, Edmund continues to create welcoming and warm pictures and stories with his music. Come let him speak to your soul.

You don't want to miss a single minute of this month's event. The cost of the evening is $20 CASH ONLY. Proceeds go to fund the ECHO music school.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Tell the Chinese government to release artist Ai Wei Wei

This post previously appeared on the Canvas, the National Art Gallery's blog. It's still there, but it's been edited for diplomatic reasons. ;)

UPDATE: Time Magazine's done a great story on this. Click here.)

(Image from Ai Wei Wei's blog, via Danwei.)

We know that the Singapore is by no means a model for freedom of speech in the arts. Our government also arrests our artists for dabbling in politics.

But that's the government. We're Singaporean citizens, PRs and residents who care about art, and most of us also care about free speech. Which is why we bloody well ought to tell the Chinese government that we do not approve of their jailing one of their foremost contemporary artists on obscure charges of "economic crimes" - probably linked to his support of pro-democracy activist activities in support of a Chinese Jasmine Revolution.

There's a petition here:

Please sign it. Please also share anything else you can think of which could help in this matter. To recap, Ai Wei Wei is most famous for being the designer of the Bird's Nest Stadium, showcased in the Beijing Olympics.

You may have seen his work at Art Stage Singapore - he created the colossal installation "Through" from the remnants of a demolished Qing dynasty house.
(Image via Snippets from the Manila Art Scene.)

He's spoken out against the Olympics, he's been beaten up by the police for testifying regarding casualties in the Sichuan Earthquake, he's been placed under house arrest and this January he had his newly built Shanghai studio destroyed by authorities, while visitors to the Tate Modern were ooh-ing and aah-ing over his "Sunflower Seeds" exhibition, consisting of 100 million handpainted porcelain sunflower seeds.

This February, amidst the government crackdown on pro-democracy activists, he cryptically posted the following on his Twitter account: "I didn’t care about jasmine at first, but people who are scared by jasmine sent out information about how harmful jasmine is often, which makes me realize that jasmine is what scares them the most. What a jasmine!"

On 3 April, government agents arrested Ai at the Beijing airport and seized papers and computers from his studio. That's pretty much all we know right now - no word on where he is or how he's doing.

A petition to release Ai on has been started by twelve leading figures in the international arts world, including the directors of the Guggenheim, Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, and Tate Museum, have started a petition on demanding that the Chinese government free Ai Weiwei.

Of course, we should be supporting the release of all the activists, given that many of them have played a more instrumental part in this movement than Ai himself. However, given the Chinese government's pride in its artists, and its new emphasis on showcasing them - they've recently announced plans for the world's biggest art gallery - their arrest of Ai is particularly egregious.

Once again, the petition's here:

Hidup Revolusi Bunga Melur.